Friday, January 18, 2013

Recognise enlightened employers who hire recovering psychiatric patients

I refer to last week’s letter “Address stigma of mental illness early on” by reader Kwan Jin Yao in MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper, and fully agree with his views. 

People with a mental illness need the same understanding and support given to people with a physical illness.  A mental illness is no different-it is not an illness for which anyone should be blamed. 

Mental illnesses cause a great deal of suffering to those experiencing them, as well as their families and friends. Furthermore, these problems appear to be increasing. According to the World Health Organisation, depression will be one of the biggest health problems worldwide by the year 2020.

The social stigma attached to mental illness remains the biggest obstacle in getting sufferers of mental illness to come forward for treatment.  There are very few enlightened employers in Singapore who will hire recovering psychiatric patients, and unfortunately, many people do not declare that they have a mental illness for fear of being unable to secure that much-need job.  A job that can help pay for their medications and treatment.  A job that can help them reintegrate into society.  And most certainly, a job that gives them a sense of worthiness. 

If ex-convicts are given second chances, then why can’t recovering psychiatric patients be given the same opportunities to rebuild their lives?  We must create an environment where everyone has a place in society. Where everyone feels wanted.

I know of patients who hide in the toilet to take their medications because they are worried that if their colleagues or bosses find out that they are suffering from mental illness, they may either lose their jobs or their careers are frozen.

It will be helpful if there is an award system at a national level to recognise enlightened employers who are prepared to hire recovering psychiatric patients. 

As the late Mother Theresa once: “The biggest disease in the world today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but the feeling of being unwanted.”

Raymond Anthony Fernando


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